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Category: women’s fiction

As If the Summer Wasn't Hot Enough Already...

I have been grossly remiss in posting about my friend Rachel Kramer Bussel’s steamy anthology Fast Girls, which came out a few weeks ago. I’ve been out of town too much and seriously backlogged with work, which meant I totally dropped the ball.

But I wanted to get this up while Rachel’s still touring this book because if you are looking for a hot and fun summer read, you should definitely check out Fast Girls (as well as her other anthologies). Oh, and this one includes a short story by another writer friend of mine, the inimitable Kayla Perrin.

I think Rachel and I first met over cupcakes—she’s the doyenne of the dessert and I saw a link to her blog from back when I was on the Debutante Ball. Her blog, Cupcake Takes the Cake always has the most creative and delectable-looking cupcakes; I often stop by just to slather. It’s a good thing I’m nowhere near Manhattan or I would be seeking out the awesome cupcakes she posts…

But hey, a woman devoted to food and sex—what’s not to love? ;-)

Now go check out Rachel’s other blog and find out more about Fast Girls, and then go buy the book!

In the Trenches (preferably sans Charles Manson)...

Pity the man who looks like Charles Manson. Because no matter if he’s a perfectly sane accountant from Dubuque with 2.5 children, a wife and a home in the suburbs, most everyone will snap to judgment that he’s a crazed maniac with murder on his mind.

Perhaps the thing about Manson that set him apart was that maniacal glint in his eye, the very anti-twinkle that translated into the suggestion of the evil of which he was capable.

Thus was my thinking at my very first book signing. I was already apprehensive about the event, feeling an enormous sense of pressure to perform well, to sell enough books to justify the efforts the booksellers had gone to on my behalf. To not be a complete loser.

So when I ended up at a bookstore that was located in the sketchier part of the unfamiliar city in which I was signing, I was a little dismayed. Most of those entering the doors of this bookstore had more piercings on their faces than the sum total of pierced anythings on my entire street back home. These customers didn’t strike me as the type willing to pony up a moment of attention (let alone seven bucks) to learn about a book titled Sleeping with Ward Cleaver. Nary a happy (or unhappy, for that matter) housewife meandered into the store for the first 15 minutes of my signing. That’s who I was on the lookout for: a wife, a mom, the type of person who would most definitely get the humor behind Sleeping with Ward Cleaver because let’s face it, there’s an experiential element to the novel. If you’ve been there, done that, with my protagonist Claire, you’re going to be far more receptive to randomly picking up a book you’ve never heard of and spending money on it at the behest of a newbie author, especially when you only went into the store to purchase a book for someone else in the first place.

Now, I’d heard warnings from authors about book signings:

Prepare yourself for everyone coming up to you, looking enthusiastic and ready purchase your book at first sight, only to instead ask you directions to the nearest bathroom.

Expect people to come up to your table just to grab a handful of the free candy you’ve got on display.

And expect the nut jobs, the ones who show up at your table with no intention of leaving, prepared to regale you with endless tales of their public transportation experiences and parents who don’t love them, all the while helping themselves to half your candy stash.

So when the Charles Manson look-alike ventured into the store about 30 seconds after I’d sat down at the signing table, I wasn’t surprised. It was fate, I knew it. As soon as our eyes met, I immediately averted my gaze—I couldn’t not. I mean come on. Who wants to encourage a mass murderer over your way? But the eye contact had been made, and I knew, I just knew, sooner or later Charlie boy would wend his way over to my table.

Now I should mention that yes, this guy had the grizzled, unwashed look of Charles Manson. He had the creepy glint of madness in his eyes. He also was lugging a small watermelon beneath his armpit. Don’t ask me why.

Charlie didn’t come immediately to my table. Perhaps because the bookstore employee was nearby, who knows? But within ten minutes he’d made his way back to my lone desk. He looked at me. He looked at my candy. He looked at me. He looked at my candy. He then proceeded to pick up a copy of my novel from the pyramid of them stacked in front of me, and feigned interest. In case you haven’t seen my cover, I’ll describe it. It’s a campy 1960’s-style green, pink and aqua cover that triggers the tune of “I Dream of Jeannie” whenever I look at it, what with the Judy Jetson-lookalike woman perched atop the bed, her striped pink hair pulled back in a headband a la Marlo Thomas in “That Girl.”

Trust me, this is not the cover that normally lures 40-something men (and certainly not those who look like they’ve just been sprung from court-mandated rehab. Again.). I have yet to have a man pick it up and leaf through it out of interest, unless their wife is along or unless it’s someone I know.

So I was onto Charlie. I knew he wanted something from me, and it wasn’t a humorous 300-page novel about a housewife in the throes of a mid-life crisis.

I tried to make small-talk. But Charlie didn’t talk beyond a few indecipherable mutterings. It was like being in the presence of Sherry and Lambchop, or a ventriloquist from the Ed Sullivan show. Or Charles Manson.

Instead, Charlie plunked his watermelon onto my miniscule tabletop, knocking over books in the process, picked up my signing pen (and his dirt-encrusted fingers did sort of bum me out, since I knew I’d soon have to touch that very pen myself), took one of my business cards, flipped it over, and started to draw.

Now the first thing Charlie inked for me looked suspiciously like a puerile attempt at a set of naked breasts. I forced a weak smile, unwilling to ask exactly what he was illustrating. But he finished it off with what I soon realized was a mouth and eyebrows, and it dawned on me that he’d drawn a rudimentary smiley face. Okay, I was hoping Charlie was done at this point. I thanked him for his lovely illustration. But he continued. His palsied hand trembling in classic heroin-withdrawal fashion, he then sketched out a Keith Haring-like stick figure that had a hint of Mr. Bill to it. And topped off his masterpiece with his illegible signature. What do you think of it?


For all I know I am in possession of a work of art by a famed contemporary pen-and-ink master who took a wrong turn in life. Who once knew of fame and fortune and now wanders aimlessly, unwashed and odoriferous, with a watermelon tucked in his arm like a pigskin cradled by a running back. As much as I was oddly charmed by my newfound artwork, I wasn’t particularly interested in having Charlie block my signing perch from the few mom-like individuals who ventured into the store that night. So I immediately offered him some kisses (the kind from Hershey’s, not my lips), which mercifully satisfied his need. Grateful, he wandered off, peeling the silver wrapping and discarding it in his wake.

And leaving me well aware that I’d experienced one of my first rites of passage as a published author. Armed and ready for the next one to come along.

Excuse me, can you tell me where the bathroom is?

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((¸¸. ·´ .. ·Jenny-:¦:-
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When Vacation Should've Been Staycation...

Ahh, holiday weekends: those bastions of escapism we all so crave. And all too often live to regret…

The idea was a peaceful weekend at a relative’s lake house. We brought a friend and her kids along who needed to get away and chill even more than we did. Buwith the holiday weekend now past, I desperately need to recover from my non-restful getaway.

In the interest of disclosure, I should admit that I’m not a lake person. The idea of stagnant water teeming with things like poisonous snakes and trash and the fuel discards from tens of thousands of boats and jet skis (oh, and an entire valley of rotten trees and lord knows what else that might lurk beneath one’s floating body, as this is a lake created from flooding a large tract of land) doesn’t make me too thrilled. The mushy gushy unidentified bottom, the clay-rusted water that stains your swimsuit, the decomposing leaves on the top, and other stench and detritus along the lake’s shorelines just do not appeal to me. Give me the wash of crystal blue ocean waves, the soothing sound of seagulls, the brilliant twinkle of sun reflecting off sugared sand beaches any day.

My sister-in-law used to refer to the lake house as Cape Fear. As in, “Oh, no! You’re going to Cape Fear again?” She knew how not-keen I was for the aforementioned reasons. Throw in my small children who needed to be watched like hawks in order to avoid drowning, being flung from a pounding motor boat, poisonous snakes and spiders, ground wasps, ticks, sunburn, and about a hundred other safety hazards, and being lake-bound meant being stress-bound for me. The absence of air conditioning in sweltering heat along with other missing accoutrements of modernity like a dishwasher didn’t add much to the charm. To top it off, the nearest town—a limited escape hatch–is a bit, well, cheesy. The kind of place where they have a “Junque Shoppe” and another that sells “Biskits.” As the fourth grade spelling bee champ, I am rarely amused by deliberately freakish misspellings of common words, even if to be cutesy.

But as my brood has gotten older, the trip has become a bit easier. Enough so that while I still contend it’s pretty much camping with a roof (and I do loathe camping)–what with the massive amounts of foodstuffs, linens and other items you have to lug along for even a few days–it’s not quite as hazard-filled. And since I’ve not been away anywhere just to relax in easily a year, our getaway sounded almost fun. Almost.

We arrived later than planned after a harried Saturday morning of packing, topped off with last-minute inclusion of every blanket and spare pillow we owned (which I would have to wash upon our return). My bug-averse daughter discovered the room in which she’d be sleeping was infested with hundreds of jumbo ants, whose eradication took top priority.

Meanwhile, I’d unleashed the dogs to run free, to hear only moments later the piercing yelps of pain from our Labrador echo hauntingly across the water: a neighbor’s dog had raced onto the property and promptly latched onto her hind quarter with a very powerful and unrelenting jaw, leaving her bleeding and endangering my daughter who tried to break up the melee. Bizarrely, the owner of the dog (which had a rap sheet of previous bites) chose to scream at us rather than apologize profusely, as protocol would dictate.

Killer Dog
Killer Dog

After spending the first hour trying to track down a veterinarian that actually worked on a holiday weekend (with limited cell phone service, natch), I then had to divert to the lovely vet’s to have our dog treated.

Meanwhile, a neighbor across the cove had decided to destroy the serenity with a gas-powered leaf blower, then to set fire to five towering mounds of wet leaves and branches that smoldered for several hours, filling the cove with blinding smoke and leaving everyone choking in its wake. This despite my husband’s entreaties to cease the burning, what with all of the fumes wafting our direction.

The lake was overrun with other fun-seekers, churning up the normally calm waters to hurricane proportions. Not one inclined toward seasickness, I felt green in the gills as the boat towed our tubing kids in treacherous currents. Sure I could’ve stayed on shore, but felt the need to actually witness what I figured were the inevitable tubing-related head injuries that would result from the foray into fierce waters. Call me crazy, but I hate the idea of naively waiting back at the house, only to have someone come racing in to tell me we need to find emergency medical help.

Now THAT'S a mean looking dog

By days end an aged and rotting chair in which I was lounging collapsed, and I sweated to near-fainting proportions while cooking dinner for 13 in the stifling air of the a/c-free kitchen, my R&R a mere specter of its former potential.

Back home now, I’m tackling the nearly twenty loads of lake-related laundry, remnants of my relaxing escape from life’s drudgeries. I might be done washing by my next vacation. That would be the one sailing in the Keys, right where several million gallons of oil and toxic solvents are wending their way. So much for that relaxing vacation , eh?